Until I met my husband, I had never really experienced Greek food, and certainly not authentic Greek food. While I have yet to go to Greece where he and his family are from (but we have a trip planned!) there is wonderful Greek food right here in our community. We are blessed to have a beautiful extended family of friends that Pete grew up with, even though all of his aunts and uncles are still in Greece. And there are some incredible cooks among this family. They have all given me an important education in how special and delicious Greek food can be. It is one of those cuisines that is so closely linked to their culture and community, and you can taste it in every bite.
And Tula, my mother in law, is amazing in the kitchen. She raised three boys with great appetites, so she knows a thing or two about feeding people! I think all of the years of cooking for a large family have left her with a very relaxed attitude in the kitchen.
She was so generous to come over the other day and let me observe her while she got to work on some of our family’s favorite Greek recipes.
I know that of all the Greek dishes out there, spanikopita is probably one of the best known. I know that there are a million recipes out there, but I wanted you guys to have a great and authentic recipe to reference. Spanikopita really reminds me of American potato salad in that everyone’s mother makes it a little differently. It usually depends on the region that you grew up in as to what you put in it as accent flavors. Tula was raised in Athens and loves to flavor hers with a generous amount of leek, green onion and fresh dill. Other friends that are from more mountainous regions use mint. I think everyone probably does it differently. Tula’s is delicious- I promise!
You have crispy, buttery, delicate layers of filo dough with a perfect amount of creamy, salty filling sandwiched in the center. The egg rich custard is filled with fresh spinach, herbs and onion and studded with gooey, melting feta and cottage cheese. And despite all of the strong ingredients, it is not overwhelming- just really, really flavorful!
These are best served hot, but I sure love them cold the next day too! Great appetizers or as a side dish. You could even serve this at brunch in place of quiche.
Spanikopita, 20 servings
2 bunches spinach, rinsed well and dried
2 bunches green onion
1 large onion
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup cottage cheese
1.5 lbs feta
½ cup dill
1/3 cup cream of wheat* (Tula’s trick to keeping the filling from getting the filo soggy!)
8 Tbs butter
½ cup olive oil
1 lb filo dough
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Get out a half sheet pan (16×12 from the inner lid- like jelly roll pan with sides. see picture)
Finely slice the leeks and green onions and add to a large bowl.
Mince the onion and add to the bowl with the olive oil.
Finely shred the spinach with a sharp knife and add to the bowl.
Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, and then beat them until fluffy.
Add the cottage cheese, feta, dill and eggs to the bowl.
Mix well with clean hands, making sure to separate the rings of leek and green onion and mix the cottage cheese and feta in. Add black pepper (the feta should be salty enough). Add the cream of wheat and mix well.
Melt the butter and then add ½ cup olive oil to the melted butter.
Lay out your filo dough.
Butter the ½ sheet pan with the butter mixture. Tula’s technique was to do a generous figure 8 drizzle and then brush it in.
Peel a sheet of the filo dough off and lay it down the long way. (She was also very relaxed when she got a torn piece- I would freak out, and she didn’t care. Her technique to override the tears, is to just overlap the layers in the opposite direction so that the tears are covered.) Follow with another good drizzle and brush of butter.
With the next layer use two sheets of filo and cover half the pan with each sheet (the short way), overlapping in the middle. Another layer of butter.
Next time, lay the filo the long way and then brush with butter. So that is the pattern- the next layer is two sheets the short way again, and so on. Don’t forget the butter in between. There should be about 5 layers.
Add the filling to the top of the dough.
For the top, you will only lay the sheets the long way, with butter brushed in between each layer.
You want about three more layers on top, and then fold the extra filo edges over the top and brush them down with butter.
One final sheet is on top, with a heavy brushing of butter. (there will probably be a few sheets of filo left over)
Lightly slice the top into squares, and then into triangles.
Bake the spanikopita at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the filo is golden brown.
Slice through again and serve hot, (but it also delicious cold!)
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I was thrilled to see this post! Beautiful and a great tutorial as well. I will be gathering ingredients this week and trying on the weekend.
And looking forward to the remainder of Greek Week :)!
Oh Ann! I am so glad you like it! I was thinking it was a nice “lasting” tutorial for me and my sisters-in law too! I can never seem to remember so the pictures will help!
yay! this is going to put me in the mood for my greece trip next week! 🙂
WWHHAAAAT!!!?? Where are you going Jenn?
Words fail me!!! Spectacular. Greeks are amazing people.
I think so! lol! I married one 🙂
This is one of my all time faves. Love love love it! I’m looking forward to what you have up your sleeve for tomorrow. More drooling from me I’m guessing. 🙂
Heather, your step by step is fabulous! I love spanikopita – one of the first greek dishes I ever had.
Hi Heather! Where do you source your filo dough here in Seattle? Ryan’s Serbian grandmother moved here a couple years ago and is always looking for the best one! xox Erin
Thank you so much for the step by step recipe! This looks absolutely amazing! I always order spanikopita at the greek restaurant down the street from me, and I can’t wait to make it myself now.
Fantastic…. unfortunately we don’t have ready made filo here , is it very difficult to make it at home?
your photos are great and your mother in law too 🙂
wow- I have never made Filo. I think it would be quite a project! I wonder if you can order it?
This is one of my favorite dishes. You’ve got my mouth watering! I’ll have to make some later this week. YUM!
P.S. This is a great tutorial. You demonstrated how to make this dish just wonderfully.
Thank you for sharing. I am very familiar with Greek food and culture – my first husband and child’s father was Greek..bless his soul. I enjoyed the photos and will try the recipe because it has been a long time since I’ve thought about such good food…. I could smell the Spanikopita!
Do you like ouzo or retsina? I do!
I hope all week you will feature Greek foods.
Oh Vicki! I am glad that this brought back memories.
My Greek family drinks Metaxa mostly. wheeew! It is hard for me to keep up.
Yes- there are lots more Greek recipe’s to come. I am typing them up as I write this 🙂
Tula’s Spanikopita if great and now you are going to turn out some of those wonderful receipes,Great!
ha! ok- Easter dinner it is!
This is such a great Greek classic, the step by step instructions are really helpful.
I’m going to Athens for a couple of days then to Santorini…Then off to Paris to take a bread baking class at Le Cordon Bleu!! Can’t wait!!!
that sounds like pure heaven. I am in the middle of planning 3 weeks in Greece- but for next year!
This looks so delicious. I have always loved Spanikopita but never had made it. I really should try! You make it look easy – not to mention delicious!
DELCIOUS! where does the cream of wheat come in? do you add it when you add the cheeses?
yes- added with the feta! Sorry- I fixed the recipe!
I’m craving for these, they’re so yuuummmyyyy !!!!!
“Kalispera” from Greece 🙂
What a grate recipe for spanakopita!!!
Kisses from Thessaloniki
Spanakopita is one of my most favorite Greek dishes! My grandmother makes it from scratch all the time, and we go through it so quickly!! Great job, yours looks amazing!
Oh my…this looks so good I have to try it! I love spanakopita but have never made. I love the photos that go along with your instructions – no guessing needed. Thanks.
thanks Christy! I hope that the pictures encourage people that they can do it!
Thnks Christy! I enjoyed making up your recipe – it was great – but obviously had the wrong size baking dish. Can you tell me please what size dish used for baking your spanikopita?
You maybe confused a half sheetpan and a quarter sheet pan. I used a half-sheetpan, which is what most of us own for cookies, etc. (a full sheet pan is what they use in restaurants.) Mine measure about 12×16 on the inside of the pan, but they have sides, like a jelly roll pan. Pretty standard- in fact I think I got some of mine at Costco! How big was your pan?
can you make the filling the night before?
Great page! But, could you help by being more specific about your ingredients? Two bunches of spinach or two bunches of spring onions really confuses me! 🙂
Two “grocery store bunches” the amount they typically sell them in. I would say a spinach bunch is about 2 cups worth. The green onions are about 1/3 cup each.
I have made this twice, it is infallible and totally fabulous. Only trick is the sharp knife!
what is Cream of wheat?
Hi Anastasia! Cream of wheat is in the cereal aisle, Its like à porridge.
Nice recipe, but how much is bunch of spinach? A pound?
I just bought a bundle of spinach at the grocery store, which is probably 2-3 cups.
This is my go to recipe! Thanks for sharing it. Making it – again – this time for girls high school tennis banquet. Cheers!
Absolutely delicious! My mother is requesting this exact recipe for her birthday! Such an easy recipe to follow and a family favorite!